Monday 19 March 2018


Billy Keane

Billy Keane

I'm typing with one hand, so if it takes you half as long to read this as it's taking me to write the frigging thing, cancel all appointments. It's an adventure centre injury. I dislocated a finger and bravely had it reset under local anaesthetic.

The finger was a grotesque, nobbly-noded bonsai sapling, but you know the risks and so it goes.

I messed up the finger playing mini-golf. The shame of it.

A Dub of our acquaintance asked if I damaged the digit while dialling numbers for the Healy-Raes. Ha ha!

We'll see how good ye are against Wexford tomorrow. Wexford have the best songs of the lot. 'Boolavogue', 'The Boys of Wexford', 'Kelly the Boy from Killane' and many more.

The Kennedys came from Wexford and became the leaders of the free world. Their predecessors took on an empire in the summer of 1798.

I love the passionate way Wexford people sing their county songs when they travel over for the Listowel Races. They remind me so much of their near neighbours, the Welsh. You can hear the sirens blaring from the Environmental Protection Agency rapid response unit when Father Murphy's men set the heather blazing in Boolavogue.

Yes, Wexford are rightly proud of the bravery of their forefathers. They were badly beaten on Vinegar Hill in 1798 and could it be that horrible history will be repeated tomorrow on Hill 16 -- just as it was in 2008?

I can't see Dublin losing this one, even though it's just over a year now since Wexford led them by eight points in the Leinster championship. Dublin have improved so much from that near disaster.

The Dubs used to panic when the going got tough, but not so now. For the first time -- in my time -- Dublin have six scoring forwards.

Jason Ryan, the Wexford manager, is quoted in the 'Wexford People': "The pick they have, no other county can match."

Wrong, Jason. London is far bigger. And if they can beat your native Waterford today, it will be some lift for the giving men and women of the London GAA, who not only look after the coaching of players on the field of play, but help in no small way with finding jobs for the betrayed.

Jason isn't wrong too often. He is the brightest young manager in the game and the Wexford boss gives his team a big chance.

Ryan is not the kind of lad who shoots off his mouth just to grab headlines. He maintains he has scoring forwards and I maintain the Dublin defence can be tested if the ball is played to the wings and all the way across the pitch, but quickly.

Dublin crowd the middle and it works pretty well in terms of stopping goals. It's a zone defence and they are not marking one-on-one, which means there must be loose men somewhere.

Wexford will get plenty of possession and must kick points from far out and near the touchline. Not easy. One thing is for sure -- Wexford will not lie down. But neither will Dublin.

It's not just the finger that's broken but the heart, too. There are times when we struggle to make sense of it all. We lost great men in Eamon Keane and Jerry Stack from our club this year. When my grandad Bill was dying he whispered to my dad: "John, I had a great gallop."

And so it was for Jerry and Eamon, but Sean Wight was only on the first circuit of the track when he was brought down by cancer. Sean was in his 40s when he passed away in Melbourne last week and he was the finest athlete I ever played with or against.

He was the first GAA player to sign up for Australia and had a brilliant career with Melbourne. Sean was 16 when he took up Gaelic football. Two years later he togged out for Kerry in an All-Ireland minor final -- at midfield. But that's only the half of it.

Sean was honest and open and he never said a bad word about any man. It's the unfairness that gets to you. He told his good pal David Mulvihill of his frustration: "Here I am with lung cancer and I never drank or smoked."

He was John Phillips Wight when he came as a young lad from Scotland to live in his mother's home town of Listowel. Within a week he became Sean Ban. In another week he had a class full of cracked pals in St Michael's.

Sean came home last August on holiday. He hadn't an ache or a pain. We were supposed to play golf with him, but had to cancel. How I wish I had those hours back.

We did get to play with Sean on his first outing for our seniors. I had a worm's eye view. Sean jumped so high for one ball I was sure he would injure himself on the way down, but he didn't. He had the landing gear of a cat.

It was a hot autumn Sunday about 30 years ago -- if I remember right -- and Sean out-fielded the incomparable Sean Walsh to win that sky-high kick-out, over on the college side.

So sad. So hard to figure exactly why that grand lad Sean Ban was taken off at half-time.

Irish Independent

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